PAOC Colloquium: Charles Ichoku (NASA Goddard)

Monday, November 20, 2017 - 12:00

"Influence of Biomass Burning on the African Atmospheric Environment and Climate"

Abstract: Wildfires and other types of biomass burning affect most vegetated parts of the globe, contributing 34%-38% of the annual global atmospheric loading of carbonaceous aerosols and ~40% of black carbon, as well as significant amounts of numerous trace gases, such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and methane. Many of these smoke constituents affect the air quality and/or the climate system directly or through their interactions with solar radiation and cloud properties. However, fire emissions are poorly constrained in global and regional models, resulting in very high levels of uncertainty in understanding their real impacts. Sub-Saharan Africa contributes well over 50% of the total global carbon emissions from biomass burning, almost all of which is human-induced in that part of the world. In this presentation, we show how we are estimating fire emissions from satellite measurements of fire radiative power (FRP) and aerosol optical depth (AOD) under our fire energetics and emissions research (FEER) initiative ( We also show how we apply satellite fire observations and modeling to study the patterns of fire-induced changes in atmospheric composition and heating rates in sub-Saharan Africa, and their implications for the regional climate and air-pollution research and applications. We will then examine where the gaps still exist and possible future research pathways to improve our understanding of these phenomena.

About the Speaker: Research interests: Given that seasonal biomass burning is widespread in Sub-Saharan Africa, can the effects of this burning on the environment be measured regionally and globally? This is one of the questions NASA scientist Dr. Charles Ichoku seeks to answer in his research examining the effects of wildfires, agricultural burning, and the emissions associated with these activities. Through a variety of measurement and modeling approaches coordinated under an interdisciplinary framework, Dr. Ichoku is helping scientists, researchers, and natural resource managers gain a better understanding of environmental change and climate variability in Northern Sub-Saharan Africa (NSSA) caused by seasonal fires and how these changes may impact the water cycle and other processes not just in this diverse region, but around the world.

About this Series: The PAOC Colloquium is a weekly interdisciplinary seminar series that brings together the whole PAOC community. Seminar topics include all research concerning the physics, chemistry, and biology of the atmospheres, oceans and climate, but also talks about e.g. societal impacts of climatic processes. The seminars generally take place on Monday from 12-1pm. Lunch is provided to encourage students and post-docs to meet with the speaker. Besides the seminar and lunch, individual meetings with professors, post-docs, and students are arranged.


Location: 54-923 — MIT Building 54-923